France’s highest administrative court has suspended a ban on wearing the full-body burki-ni swimsuit which has sparked controversy across the world.
The State Council heard arguments on Friday (26) from the Human Rights League and an anti-Islamophobia group which was seeking to reverse a decision by the southern town of Villeneuve-Loubet to ban the Islamic garment.
The ruling from the council suspends a single ban in the southern town, near Nice, but is likely to set a precedent for other towns that have prohibited the full-body swimwear on their beaches.
The burkini bans have triggered a fierce debate about the French state’s strict secularism policy. France separates religion and public life, and was the first European country to ban the wearing of the Islamic face veil in public in 2010.
London’s mayor Sadiq Khan criticised the ban while on a re-cent visit to Paris, saying he did not agree with barring Islamic swimear on beaches.
He added: “I don’t think anyone should tell women what they can and can’t wear. Full stop. It’s as simple as that.
“I don’t think it’s right. I’m not saying we’re perfect yet, but one of the joys of London is that we don’t simply tolerate difference, we respect it, we embrace it, and we celebrate it.”
Khan’s comments came after four officers ordered a woman sunbathing on the Promenade des Anglais beach in Nice – yards from the scene of the Bastille Day lorry attack in July – to remove her burkini.
On another occasion, a 34-year-old mother of two was fined for wearing leggings, a tunic and a headscarf on the beach in Cannes. “I was sitting on a beach with my family. I was wearing a classic headscarf and had no intention of swimming,” said the woman, who gave only her first name, Siam.
John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International’s Europe director had called for France to overturn “a discriminatory ban that is fuelled by and is fuelling prejudice and intolerance”.